Africa News Roundup: Ethiopia and Egypt, Chad and Libya, CAR’s Crisis, and More

Los Angeles Times:

A battle over water has turned into a war of colorful rhetoric between Ethiopia and Egypt over the flow of the Nile, which begins in the African highlands but keeps Egypt from being swallowed entirely by desert.

An ambitious Ethiopian dam project is diverting Nile waters that Cairo says will reduce the river’s northward flow. The Egyptians have stumbled into crisis mode: At a meeting hosted by President Mohamed Morsi this week, several politicians, unaware TV cameras were rolling, suggested sabotaging or threatening to bomb the dam.

IRIN: “[Central African Republic] Crisis Remains Dire – and Neglected.”

El Watan (French):

Gao, Kidal, Anefis… Six mois après le lancement de l’opération Serval, que deviennent les villes du Nord-Mali ? Notre envoyée spéciale a échappé à un attentat kamikaze et a vécu des accrochages entre l’armée malienne et le MNLA. Elle témoigne de la peur et de la précarité dans lesquelles vivent les populations.

BBC:

Seven people have died in the Somali port of Kismayo in fighting between two self-declared leaders of the strategic city and surrounding area.

Residents told the BBC the clashes began in the town centre at midday and lasted for about 40 minutes.

They broke out after one of the leaders tried to meet the defence minister who is attempting to resolve the crisis.

VOA: “South Sudan Switches from Arabic Textbooks to English.”

From May (missed it then), Luke Balleny: “What Impact Has the EITI Transparency Initiative Had on Nigeria?”

The Economist: “Could Political Demonstrations in Ethiopia Herald Greater Freedom?”

Wall Street Journal: “Chad’s President Warns of Islamist Threat in Libya.”

What else is happening?

Central African Republic: World Politics Review Article on the Post-Rebellion Transition

As on Monday, I’m outsourcing today’s post: I’m up at World Politics Review with a piece entitled “Security Vacuum Threatens Central African Republic’s Political Transition.” I consider some of the background to and implications of the recent rebel takeover in that country. If you read the piece, please let me know your reactions here in the comments.

Africa Blog Roundup: Algeria, Somalia, Michel Djotodia, South Sudan, and More

The Moor Next Door: “Comments on Algeria.”

Baobab has a video analysis of the London conference on Somalia.

Missed this during my hiatus in April, but it’s still relevant: Louisa Lombard‘s biography of Michel Djotodia, the rebel-turned-leader of the Central African Republic.

Amb. John Campbell: “What Next for Nigeria’s Oil Patch?”

Dibussi Tande: “President [Paul] Biya [of Cameroon] Appoints Thirty Senators.”

Roving Bandit: “So What Exactly Just Happened to the Economy of South Sudan?”

Via Amb. David Shinn, the Spring 2013 bulletin of the Sudan Studies Association (.pdf).

Roundup on the Rebel Conquest of Bangui, Central African Republic

On March 24, after months of rebellion and negotiations, the rebel coalition Seleka took control of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (CAR). For more background, see herehere, and especially here. This roundup attempts to capture key events and implications of the rebels’ capture of the capital:

  • VOA: “CAR Leader Flees; Rebel Chief Declares Self President.”
  • BBC: “CAR Rebel Head Michel Djotodia ‘Suspends Constitution’.”
  • Jeune Afrique (French) has a profile of Djotodia.
  • Al Jazeera: “CAR President [Francois Bozize] Seeks Refuge in Cameroon.”
  • Al Jazeera: “Looting and Gunfire in Captured CAR Capital.”
  • CSM: “Rebels Capture Central African Republic: Now Can They Govern It?”
  • Reuters: “Regional peacekeepers said that leader of the Seleka rebel coalition, self-proclaimed president Michel Djotodia, appealed for their help in restoring order after his own men joined in a second day of looting on Monday in the riverside capital Bangui.”
  • France24 reports that Seleka promises to hold elections after a three-year transitional period.
  • LA Times: “African Union Suspends [CAR] After President Ousted.”
  • IRIN: “CAR Coup Comes Amid Deepening Humanitarian Crisis.”
  • Statements by UN Secretary General Ban Ki MoonUS State Department, UK Foreign Secretary, and French President Francois Hollande.

Africa Blog Roundup: CAR, Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, and More

First, news from the Central African Republic:

Rebels in the Central African Republic have taken the capital, Bangui, after President Francois Bozize fled.

Witnesses reported gunfire as the Seleka rebel coalition took the presidential palace, followed by chaos and looting in the city centre.

Mr Bozize arrived with his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese official said.

The rebels, involved in an on-off rebellion since December, say Mr Bozize failed to honour a peace deal.

Gregory Mann: “It is looking ever more likely that France will claim to win its war while Mali fails to win its own.”

Bruce Whitehouse: “Mali’s Coup, One Year On.”

A podcast on Sudan-South Sudan agreements.

Sean Jacobs: “Chinua Achebe: The Writer Lives On.”

Amb. John Campbell comments on a recent BBC report from Maiduguri, Nigeria.

Neha Paliwal: “Kenyan Government Yanks Condom Ad Featuring Unfaithful Woman.”

Roving Bandit: “Kigali to Oxford.”

Africa News Roundup: Malian Refugees, Seleka, Ethiopian Pastoralists, and More

Rest in Peace Chinua Achebe.

Reuters:

Fears of ethnic reprisals by government troops in Mali have driven thousands of Arabs and Tuaregs in the country’s north to abandon their homes and flee to Mauritania, undermining efforts to reunite their war-torn homeland.

At least 20,000 civilians have trekked westward across the dunes to the crowded Mbera refugee camp since mid-January when government forces reentered northern Mali on the coattails of a French ground and air campaign that swept Islamist rebels from the region.

The refugees joined 54,000 others who already fled to Mauritania when the rebels seized northern Mali in April 2012 and went on to impose a violent form of sharia law involving amputations and public whippings.

ICRC:

In northern Mali – where cholera is endemic – maintaining the drinking-water supply to the cities of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu is a major public-health issue. The lives of 115,000 people are at stake. This is no mean feat in an area that has been gripped by heavy fighting since the beginning of 2012.

IRIN: “Keeping Pastoralist Children in School in Ethiopia.”

RFI (French): “Centrafrique: inquiétude à Bangui à l’approche des rebelles de la Seleka.”

UN News Centre: “Central African Republic: Ban, Security Council Urge Parties to Immediately Halt Fighting.”

VOA: “Will There Be Enough Water for Everyone?”

Africa News Roundup: President Kenyatta, Maiduguri Bombings, CAR, and More

Reuters:

Uhuru Kenyatta, the son of Kenya’s founding president, won the presidential election with a slim margin of 50.03 percent of votes cast, provisional figures showed, just enough to avoid a run-off.

Reuters again:

Seven loud explosions shook Nigeria’s northeastern city of Maiduguri on Friday, witnesses said, hours after President Goodluck Jonathan ended a trip there to try to galvanize support for his battle against Islamist insurgents.

The Punch: “Boko Haram Destroys 209 Schools in Yobe.”

CNN:

French forces have seized a significant arms cache in northern Mali believed to have belonged to Islamist jihadist groups, including “tons” of heavy weapons, suicide belts and equipment for improvised explosive devices, France’s defense minister said Friday.

Magharebia: “Algeria Focuses on [AQIM Fighters in] Kabylie.”

IRIN: “Briefing: Militias in Masisi.”

RFI (French): “Central African Republic: Refugees Continue to Flee Fighting and Insecurity.”

What else is happening?

Africa Blog Roundup: CAR Rebellion, Ethiopia’s Muslim Protests, Sahelian Ulama, and More

Tendai Marima: “[Central African Republic] Peace Deal Yet to Translate into Reality.”

CPJ: “Ethiopian Journalist Arrested for Covering Muslim Protests.”

Scott Straus: “Wars Do End: Why Conflict in Africa Is Falling.”

Peter Tinti: “Understanding Northern Mali: Local Context Is Everything.”

Andrew Lebovich: “Analyzing Foreign Influence and Jihadi Networks in Nigeria.”

Lissnup: “Timbuktu Who’s Who.” It doesn’t get more thorough than this in publicly available sources I’ve seen. Truly excellent work.

Magharebia:

Religious leaders from Algeria, Mali, Niger and Mauritania this week decided that the most effective way to support peace and eradicate extremist ideas would be to work as a team.

The imams, who initially came together in November to condemn the extremism in Mali, met in Algiers on Wednesday (January 30th) to formally launch the League of Ulemas of the Sahel.

Imams of the Maliki rite across the Sahel will work to educate youth about the dangers of extremism, particularly by working closely with mosques and youth centres, said Algerian imam Youcef Mechri, the new body’s secretary-general.

Amb. John Campbell: “Dutch Court Finds for Shell in Niger Delta Pollution Case.”

Laine Strutton: “A Powerful Image of Oil.”

Somalia Newsroom: “Villa Somalia Bombing Shows Danger of ‘Defectors’.”

Tolu Ogunlesi on digital journalism and its prospects in Nigeria.

What are you reading?

Overview and Map of the Rebel Advance in the Central African Republic [UPDATED]

In a military offensive this month, the rebel coalition Seleka has captured at least six towns in the Central African Republic (CAR – see map below). This post gives some background on the situation.

One could start a history of conflict in CAR much further back, but the current cycle of conflict began with the presidency of Ange-Felix Patasse (1937-2011, ruled 1993-2003). François Bozizé launched a rebellion against Patasse in 2001 and took power in 2003. Chadian President Idriss Deby is seen as a key ally of Bozizé, who has been in power ever since. As president, Bozizé won elections in 2005 and 2011, but he too has faced challenges from rebels, notably a conflict in 2003-2007 with a coalition called the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR). An April 2007 peace agreement formally ended that conflict, made the UFDR a political party, and provided for the integration of rebel fighters in the army. Some rebels kept on fighting – a group called the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), for example, launched attacks in late 2009. RFI (French) reported that in August 2012, the CPJP, “the last rebel group active” in CAR, signed an agreement with the government to become a political party. The emergence of Seleka shows that rebellions in CAR are not, in fact, over.

Seleka is made up of “breakaway factions” from the UFDR, the CPJP, and another group, the CPSK, whose French name could be rendered “the Convention of Patriots for Salvation and Kodro” (I was not able to discover what “Kodro” means in this context). Seleka was, according to this French-language site, formed on August 20 of this year. Its demands include what it sees as proper implementation of the 2007 accords, including payments for demobilized rebel fighters and releases of prisoners. More on their demands here.

Seleka currently appears to control six towns: Ouadda, Sam Ouandja, Bamingui, Ndele (captured December 11), Bria (captured December 18), and Kabo (captured December 19). While Ouadda and Sam Ouandja are reportedly small, and Bamingui seems to be as well, the BBC describes Ndele as a “key northern town” and Bria as “a key mining hub in a diamond-rich region.” Together, the BBC says, Ouadda, Sam Ouandja, Ndele, and Bria form “a major route linking the CAR to Sudan, Cameroon and Chad.” Reuters does not assign Kabo any strategic or economic significance, but Reuters notes that taking Kabo, which is 400km/250m from Bangui, brings the rebels even closer to the capital. Many of these towns were battle zones circa 2006, and Ndele was a center of fighting in 2009.

The rebels’ advance seemingly owes partly to the advantage of surprise, but they also seem to have outfought government soldiers (and former rebels fighting alongside the government) in these towns. The BBC describes the battle for Ndele:

An army source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the BBC that the rebels captured Ndele after a surprise attack.

The town was poorly defended, as a detachment of troops was leaving Ndele and had not yet been relieved by other soldiers, the source said.

[...]

The army in Ndele was backed by a former rebel movement, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP), which signed an accord with the government in 2011, AFP reports.

“The CPJP put up resistance, but they were routed by our men and forced to flee,” a rebel spokesman known as Col Narkoyo told AFP.

Seleka fighters also reportedly ambushed a government detachment attempting to retake Ndele on December 16. Chadian soldiers crossed into CAR on December 18 to assist the government in breaking the rebellion, but so far I have seen no reports of Chadian troops clashing directly with the rebels. Chad intervened militarily in CAR during the previous rebellion as well as at other points.

Humanitarian concerns are growing. The fighting has already displaced thousands of people.

UPDATE: See this Reuters piece, “Rebels Say Advance Halted, Ready for Talks.”

Below is my map of the rebel advance. Undoubtedly the locations of some of the towns are somewhat off, so take it as merely an approximation of the geography:

Africa News Roundup: LRA, Boko Haram, Guinea-Bissau, Malian Refugees, and More

Several items on the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA):

The Federal Government of Nigeria has reportedly opened a special prison for detainees from the Boko Haram movement.

The aftermath of the coup in Guinea-Bissau continues, with the Economic Community of West African States and the junta at loggerheads.

Some 60,000 Malian refugees have fled to Mauritania since the war began in Mali in January. The overall number of displaced persons from the conflict in Mali is around 260,000.

The New York Times on the Ethiopian holy cities of Aksum and Lalibela.

Jeune Afrique (French) on the “war” to succeed defeated President Abdoulaye Wade within Wade’s Parti démocratique sénégalais (Senegalese Democratic Party, PDS). Seneweb (French) reports on the recent visit of one PDS leader, Senate President Pape Diop, to Touba, center of the country’s Mouridiyya Sufi brotherhood.

Reuters: “Kenya, Somalia border row threatens oil exploration.”

What else is going on?